Last year at Rainbow these darling angels adorned our church Christmas tree. They were made by Lillian Dohlman. Now this angelic host hovers in the pastor’s office all year round. So far they haven’t made any huge pronouncements, at least that I am aware of. Then again, they do continue to prod me forward on this stained glass study.
The story of how we at Rainbow came into possession of these angels is a long, beautiful story. The shorter version goes something like this:
After Lillian and her son Matthew both deceased (Matthew died in 2021), Rainbow came into possession of their entire estate/belongings. And in that process, Matthew and Lillian have taught me so much, especially in terms of racial bias and awareness. In fact, they are a big reason why I began this study into what stained glass communicates or fails to communicate about God, humanity, race, gender, etc.
Matthew and Lillian were both African American with Cherokee ancestry as well. They lived in upper Rosedale, near the Mennonite Church (when it was on Rainbow Boulevard). And that’s how Matthew became part of Rainbow Mennonite Church. Even when Rainbow moved to Southwest Boulevard (our current location), Matthew stayed in touch with church members and insisted on remaining in the church directory even when he didn’t attend.
I learned at Matthew’s funeral that in Matthew’s early years, had he tried to enter the main doors of Rosedale Methodist Church (our current church building) as a black boy in the late 1950s, he would have been turned away. By the time Rainbow Mennonite began sharing the building with Rosedale Methodist in 1969, that had (thankfully) changed. Still, that fact still gives me shivers.
In fact, I think about this from time to time when I look up at our Methodist-inherited stained glass window, featuring a white Jesus hovering above where the main entrance used to be (facing Southwest Boulevard). To think, at one point not all that long ago, young boy Matthew and his beautiful mother Lillian would not have been permitted to enter under the stained white feet of Jesus.
I digress…back to the angel ornaments and dreaming of a multi-colored Christmas!
One of my Advent exercises this year has been to search for stained glass images that draw me into the Advent story and characters in a new way. I’ve been sharing them daily to my account on Instagram. I decided to make a video of these images as well. I’ll call it Windows into Advent and Christmas.
Hope you enjoy.